BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Middlebury College men's soccer team won their third NESCAC Championship in a thrilling shootout decision over Bowdoin on Sunday afternoon. The Panthers (13-3-1) claimed the shootout win by a 4-3 score and earn the NESCAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Bowdoin (13-1-3) will likely receive an at-large bid when selections are announced on Monday.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Bowdoin quickly gained the upper hand in penalty kicks when Middlebury's first shooter, Harrison Watkins, hooked his kick wide left. The teams proceeded to trade goals until Panther goaltender Tim Cahill smothered Zach Danssaert's chance in the fourth round, knotting PK's at three apiece. In the fifth and final round, Jon Portman tucked a chance inside the left post and Bowdoin's Alex Marecki's kick sailed wide left to give Middlebury the 4-3 penalty kick win.
The exciting finish capped an excellent match that featured nearly flawless play by both sides through regulation and two extra sessions. Middlebury's best chance to win the contest in regular time came off a corner in the 66th minute, when Jake Edwards lofted a kick into the box where a scramble ensued, drawing Bowdoin netminder Dan Hicks out of position. The ball came to Middlebury's Tyler Macnee, who booted a shot that got past Hicks, but was kicked off the goal line by Tim Prior to keep the game deadlocked.
Bowdoin countered with perhaps their two best chances of the game, one off a through-ball pass from Eddie Jones that Cahill stole off the foot off Nick Powell. With under seven minutes remaining, Jones came loose on the left side of the box and ripped a shot that whistled over the crossbar.
The best opportunity for either side in overtime came for Bowdoin, when Daniel Chaffetz placed a 30-yard cross into the box from the right side, setting up a diving header by Jones. But Cahill was right there to collect the save and maintain the shutout.
Cahill finished with three saves in the contest while Hicks ended with four stops. Bowdoin held an 11-9 edge in shots while Middlebury racked up an 8-3 advantage in corner kicks. The NESCAC Championship win is the third for the Panthers, who had also won in 2007 amd 2000, but had lost in the finals in each of the past two seasons. Bowdoin is now 0-2 in NESCAC finals with the loss.
Photos courtesy of Brian Beard and Creative Images Photography.